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Robots Will Take Over the World!

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Robots will take over the world. Losing control and function of a machine and having HAL repeatedly inform you that he can’t do what you ask is a scary thought, not just for Luddites. After all, humans are the ones who actually designed machines. Wasn’t the machine supposed to make the job more manageable in the first place?

We’re Asking the Wrong Question

But what is the endgame for automating human jobs? We are already seeing job losses due to the rapid uptake of AI and robots.

Whether we like it or not, AI and robots are more reliable at automating repetitive, mundane, and routine tasks. We are witnessing this in manufacturing and business processes like data entry and certain types of customer service. AI is everywhere, and it will only become more ubiquitous in technology.

From manufacturing solutions that have sped up production to less world-changing inventions such as faster food ordering, automation in the workforce has evolved.

Improving productivity has never stopped. If you’re old enough, you may recall when horses provided the needed power (horsepower, anyone?) and were replaced with steam; this was a type of automation.

Post WWII, airplanes began surpassing trains as the preferred method of travel. Planes themselves now have complex autopilot systems. These signs or omens of progress (depending on your position) suggest job creation and job decimation.

Someone has to create the design and programming of robots or automation. The complicated wiring and controls must be structured for constant operation. These instrument panels likely have to withstand harsher treatment or be developed without needing constant repair than if they were human-operated.

Those Left Behind

But technology does leave some behind. Automation seems to be everywhere. Holding onto a job or continuing an inefficient process just because does neither party any good. Adaptation is critical in the workforce, and technological advances may or may not be more effective.

Of course, we only seem to know their effectiveness after the fact. But that is human nature. It cannot be helped.

Industries being dramatically revolutionized by AI and robots include:

  • Finance – algorithmic trading, fraud detection, and automated customer service
  • Construction – automated vehicles and machinery
  • Manufacturing – less humans and more robotics on assembly lines
  • Retail – no need for tellers, as there are automated checkout systems as well as automated inventory management
  • Transportation – autonomous vehicles and drones. Autonomous cars and trucks are coming to our highways soon
  • Healthcare – AI diagnostics, robotic surgery assistants, fewer people in the operating rooms

How fast is too fast?

Many people hesitate with automation in the workforce because it just seems to keep coming. But that is consistent with history. It ebbs and flows. A prime example of this surge and subside is a look at the barriers that prevent overreaching automation implementation. Efficiency has its limits, after all.

  • Technical issues that arise during operation
  • Financial hurdles to investment in new automated devices
  • Human resistance to change

These barriers sound like brand-new predictions for 2024, right? They are actually from 1982. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) presented a report titled Automation in the Workplace: Barriers, Impact on the Work Force, and the Federal Role. Note that the obstacles to implementation are always the same: computer errors, money, and people.

As AI-powered, everything becomes more affordable, including AI-generated humans, which makes it almost impossible to know this person does not exist or that one either, in everything from adverts to training videos, news readers to movie stars.

Organizations are already overcoming their initial hesitation and using AI wherever possible to improve productivity and profitability. The speed of this transformation is resulting in economies unprepared for AI-induced job losses and the need to invest in retaining people to do other work.

Luddites Unite!

Workers are being left behind, those trained in skills that are no longer in demand in the workforce. Improvements in technology will always create new jobs, but at the same time, they eliminate roles.

History has proven that the workforce adapts quite well to change because this change has been seen before. If it means that computers will be our end, that is still to be decided. What is true, though, is that the current labor force will need to adapt even more to skill development.

AI will require maintenance, debugging, and programming; these are roles for engineers and programmers.

Additionally, there will be more roles for managing social ethics, compliance, and oversight. To remain relevant in the workforce, workers must commit to careers less likely to be overtaken by AI and realize that learning will be continuous.

Expect more individuals to pursue self-employment in the GIG economy rather than traditional careers as employees.

There will also be changes to the workweek, with fewer hours and the likely introduction of what is known as UBI (universal basic income), where all citizens receive a living wage. The unconditional wage ensures workers out of work can survive and transition to other jobs.